Time and time again, the SNP are asked – nay, demanded – to respect the Sovereign Will of the People of Scotland in regards to the referendum. I can only presume the other parties hope that by constantly repeating themselves, they give the impression that the SNP are somehow refusing to do so.
So, for the umpteenth time: the SNP are respecting the Sovereign Will of the People of Scotland. How can you tell? Because we are not independent right now.
On the 19th of September, then-First Minister Alex Salmond did not start negotiating with the UK government for independence. He did not declare that 1.6 million Scots was enough support to make a go of it, that the direction of travel since the campaign began suggested that support for independence would continue to rise, or that the UK government’s breaking of purdah and the Treasury’s illegal dealings with banks meant that the referendum was null and void. He did not point out that referendums in the UK are not legally binding, and that a government only abides by them for political reasons:
All referendums are advisory in the sense that legislators could ignore the result or reverse the result by passing a law. But they do not: and none of our witnesses argued that governments would or should be able to ignore the outcome of a referendum because it was only ‘advisory’. As Professor Curtice put it, a referendum on independence would be “advisory in the technical sense but […] both sides would regard it as binding on them politically.”
He did not point out that prior to the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament, it was generally expected – even by no less a figure than the longest-serving Prime Minister in over a hundred years, according to an as-yet-unsourced quote – that the only mandate needed for independence was for Scotland to elect a majority of SNP MPs to Westminster. That prospect of UDI was not restricted to the most fundamentalist of independence supporters, either:
How can we let the Scottish people suffer another Tory government hell-bent on union destruction and driving down living standards? I am seriously considering leading all Scottish Labour MP’s over the burning bridge to join with the SNP and declare UDI.
– Robin Cook, 1983 Party Conference
The SNP have had multiple chances to try their luck in simply declaring independence. They could have tried it in 2007, when a non-UK party became the government of a constituent nation for the first time in a century. They could have tried it in 2011, when they became the first majority government in a system designed to prevent them. They could even have tried it in 2015, when the people of Scotland elected the largest number of non-UK party MPs to the UK parliament since 1910 – a monumental paradigm shift that could, in theory, have represented a shift in circumstances.
But they didn’t. The SNP have not declared independence, because they decided that the only just and irrefutable way to do so is with the clear support of the people of Scotland as indicated in a referendum.
Ms Dugdale’s stunning statements in last night’s leaders debate only confirms what many already suspect – that the UK parties do not respect the mandate of the people of Scotland at all. We already saw it in 1979, where even though 51.62% of Scots voted in favour of the Scotland Act 1978, it was repealed – because George Cunningham decided to put in an amendment saying that unless 40% of the entire electorate voted for it, then it would be discounted.
We already saw it in 2007, when the UK parties vowed to block an independence referendum entirely:
Lib Dems move to block Scots independence referendum
· Too high a price for power sharing, says leader
· Decision pulls rug from under pledge by SNP
The prospects of a referendum in Scotland on independence diminished sharply yesterday after the Liberal Democrats said they would block the move unless the nationalists won a majority in this May’s elections.
Nicol Stephen, Lib Dem leader in Scotland, effectively killed off the Scottish National party’s hopes of forming a ruling coalition with his party by indicating that the nationalists’ demands to stage a referendum on leaving the United Kingdom was too high a price to pay for sharing power.
Then again in 2008:
Gordon Brown forces Wendy Alexander Scottish independence climbdown
Wendy Alexander has bowed to Gordon Brown’s wishes and back-tracked on her promise not to vote down SNP plans for an independence referendum.
In a U-turn on her previous U-turn, the Holyrood Labour group leader refused to rule out opposing a plebiscite when Alex Salmond tables legislation in early 2010.
Although she still claims to back a referendum, her aides said she would only support the Bill in the unlikely scenario that she is happy with its wording and timing.
And in 2009:
First Minister Alex Salmond and his Scottish Nationalist Party-led (SNP) minority government are unlikely to introduce an independence referendum bill in the Scottish Parliament in January, as previously planned. According to well-placed sources, the SNP government’s “referendum team” is now considering whether to go forward with the bill in February or March or whether to introduce the bill after Westminster elections conclude this spring. The SNP-led government is up against a block of opposition parties which has thus far vowed to kill any referendum. Given the tough political climate, the First Minister and his team are assessing their power to leverage the other parties into allowing the referendum bill to go forward this spring. If the bill goes forward and makes it through the introductory stage, then a referendum vote in late 2010 is likely. If the political climate proves too tough, First Minister Salmond and the SNP will not get their referendum vote and will likely continue to criticize opposition parties and their London-centric parent groups for continuing to undermine Scottish democracy and oppose the will of the Scottish electorate.
And of course in 2010:
Alex Salmond postpones referendum
Alex Salmond has announced he is postponing his independence referendum plan to prevent the Unionist parties killing it off before the general election.
The First Minister instead unveiled another consultation on his proposals that will last up to three months, but gave no timetable for the actual vote to take place.
Opposition parties accused Mr Salmond of diversionary tactics to take attention away from the furore surrounding his deputy, Nicola Sturgeon.
They accused the First Minister of running scared of the Scottish Parliament and urged him to “put up or shut up” by tabling his Referendum Bill as soon as possible.
Mr Salmond had indicated he would unveil his plans last month, on Burns’ Night, and stage a vote on breaking up Britain later this year.
But the three main Unionist parties vowed to kill off the plan within a week of publication, and the new delay means it is extremely unlikely a referendum could be staged in 2010.
Even when it came to the question of Devomax, Home Rule, or whatever the other parties claim they supported in the final months of the referendum campaign, when the opportunity to actually put it to the Scottish people came at the time when it was by far the most popular choice, they flatly refused to support it:
A panel of experts, commissioned by opposition parties at Holyrood, has argued the referendum on whether Scotland should become an independent nation should be comprised of one clear question.
Amidst an on-going belief Alex Salmond is keen on including an option for “Devo-Max” on the ballot paper, the commission, established by Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats north of the border and led by Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, a former Edinburgh University principal, has argued the clarity needed in the result necessitates a single, clear question.
Nothing has changed post-referendum. The UK government has voted down every single amendment to the new Scotland Bill. They have rejected calls for a double majority in the upcoming EU referendum. And they consistently refuse to acknowledge the right of the people of Scotland to call for another referendum whenever they so desire it.
You would think the other parties would respect that.
There is one party that does: a party that fought for everyone in Scotland to have the right to vote on whether Scotland should become independent. There is one party that treated the Scottish people with enough intelligence to be able to handle a two-question referendum. There is one party that will continue to fight for more powers even after the official result of the referendum. It’s a party with unprecedented trust levels in Europe; a party that has the only leader with a net positive rating in the UK; a party that represents the people of Scotland.
5th of May shouldn’t be a hard decision at all.
Stuart’s fundraiser (three days left!)